M&M’s are a popular chocolate candy coated treat that come in numerous flavors and varieties. If you follow a special diet, you may wonder, “Are M&M’s vegan?” Unfortunately, no! However, in this post I answer all of your questions about this popular candy, and provide you with some vegan M&M’s alternatives!
I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that M&M’s were my chocolate candy of choice back in the day!
In fact, when I was teaching I kept a mason jar filled with M&M candies behind my desk. When I felt like I needed a mid-day chocolate pick-me-up, I’d grab a a few, and my students would be none the wiser! I loved that they came in small pieces I could pop in my mouth, with an irresistible candy coating.
When I transitioned to a vegan diet, and began to look more closely at the ingredient labels on the foods I was eating, I wondered if my favorite candy was vegan friendly.
That was when I realized that M&M’s ARE NOT VEGAN!
Why aren’t M&M’s vegan?
- Contain milk and dairy
- Food dye is tested on animals and sometimes uses animal products
- Regular sugar is often processed with bone char
The original M&M’s are made with milk chocolate, thus it contains dairy. However, even the other flavors of M&M’s also contain dairy, even their dark chocolate.
In addition, those fun candy coated colors are made with food dye that is tested on animals, and some dyes use animal products. Furthermore, some types of white sugar made in the United States is processed using bone char.
Are M&M’s vegetarian?
If you follow a vegetarian diet, meaning that you eat dairy and eggs, but do not eat animal meat, then deciding whether or not you want to consume M&M’s is somewhat of a risk.
M&Ms are made with regular cane sugar, and some cane sugar in the United States is processed with bone char. As a result, it’s difficult to know one way or another if the sugar used in M&M’s is processed this way. Coconut sugar and beet sugar is never processed with bone char, nor is organic sugar.
Therefore, if you are vegetarian, and you do not want to take the risk that the cane sugar used in M&M’s have been processed with bone char, than I do not recommend consuming them, and opting for one of the vegan alternatives below, or going for chocolate chips.
Ingredients in M&M’s
Original Milk Chocolate M&M’s
With a combination of skim milk, and milk fat the original M&M’s are not vegan. In addition, they are made with white sugar, and it is difficult to determine one way or another if that sugar has been processed with bone char.
There are also artificial colors and natural flavors added. These umbrella terms could mean that the ingredients are vegan, but also not. It’s a good idea to steer clear of foods that have the terms “artificial and natural flavors.”
Add to that that there is also white sugar that may have been processed with bone char, as well as as food dye that is tested on animals, and the original M&M’s are not considered vegan. See Below for a complete list of ingredients.
Ingredients: Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Cocoa Butter, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Artificial And Natural Flavors), Sugar, Cornstarch, Less Than 1% – Corn Syrup, Dextrin, Coloring (Includes Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Yellow 6 Lake, Red 40, Red 40 Lake, Blue 1, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2), Carnauba Wax, Gum Acacia.
Like the original, peanut M&M’s have skim milk, milk fat, and lactose, all dairy ingredients that do not make them vegan friendly. In addition, they have other added ingredients like artificial and natural flavors, as well as food coloring that is tested on animals. Therefore, peanut M&M’s are not vegan. See below for a full list of ingredients.
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skim milk, milkfat, lactose, peanuts, soy lecithin, salt, artificial and natural flavors), sugar, peanut butter (partially defatted peanuts, palm oil), hydrogenated palm kernel oil, cornstarch, dextrose, less than 1% – corn syrup, natural flavor, salt, dextrin, coloring (includes blue 1 lake, red 40, yellow 6, yellow 5, blue 1, red 40 lake, yellow 6 lake, yellow 5 lake, blue 2 lake, blue 2), carnauba wax, propyl gallate to maintain freshness, gum acacia.
Peanut Butter M&M’s
Peanut Butter M&M’s are made with milk chocolate, with a center of peanut butter, covered in a candy shell. With ingredients such as skim milk, milk fat, lactose, artificial flavors, natural flavors, and food coloring, these little gems are also not vegan. See below for a full list of ingredients.
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skim milk, milk fat, lactose, peanuts, soy lecithin, salt, artificial flavors), peanut butter (partially defatted peanuts), sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, less than 2% of: cornstarch, natural flavor, salt, corn syrup, dextrin, coloring (includes red 40 lake, blue 1 lake, yellow 5 lake, yellwo 5, blue 2, yellow 6 lake, blue 1, red 40, blue 2), propyl gallate to maintain freshness. May contain almonds.
Dark Chocolate M&M’s
Made with skim milk, milk fat, lactose, artificial flavors, cane sugar, and food coloring, even the dark chocolate M&M’s are not vegan. See below for a complete list of ingredients.
Ingredients: Semisweet Chocolate (Chocolate, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Skim Milk, Milkfat, Lactose, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavors, Salt), Sugar, Cornstarch, Less than 2% – Corn Syrup, Dextrin, Coloring (Includes Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake), Gum Acacia.
Also made with milk chocolate that uses skim milk, milk fat, lactose, as well as artificial flavors, and food coloring, these crunchy gems are not vegan. See below for a complete list of ingredients.
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, chocolate, skim milk, cocoa butter, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, PGPR, salt, artificial flavors), sugar, crisp rice (rice flour, sugar, barley malt, salt, dextrose, mixed tocopherols), less than 2% – cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrin, coloring (includes blue 1 lake, yellow 6, red 40, yellow 5, blue 1, yellow 6 lake, red 40 lake, yellow 5 lake, blue 2 lake, blue 2), gum acacia. allergy information: contains milk and soy. may contain peanuts and wheat.
Vegan M&M’s: Alternatives
After taking a look at the ingredient profile of the most popular M&M varieties, and seeing that not only are they not vegan friendly, but they also include many questionable processed ingredients, you may be wondering if there are any alternatives out there.
Luckily, there are some vegan options out there if you just can’t resist the taste, texture, and fun of these bite sized candies!
No Whey Foods Chocolate No No’s: Vegan Alternative to Original M&M’s
These vegan chocolate gems are the perfect substitute for the original M&M candies. They have a candy coated shell that is colored with vegan ingredients from plants. They are certified vegan, and all natural. You can also rest assured that the sugar used to make these candies are also vegan.
Ingredients: Vegan Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Rice Syrup Powder, Unsweetened Chocolate, Sunflower Lecithin (Emulsifier), Gum Arabic, Carnauba Wax, Pectin, Spirulina Extract (Color), Fruit and Vegetable Juice (Color) Salt, Natural Vanilla, Natural Flavor
Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems: Vegan Alternative to Peanut M&M’s
When you’re looking for a substitute for Peanut M&M’s these are it! These dark chocolate peanut candies are coated in a hard candy shell like the original Peanut M&M’s. But these are made using fair trade chocolate, non-GMO ingredients, and the colors for the candy shell come from natural ingredients that are not tested on animals. They are certified vegan and soy free.
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (*Organic Chocolate Liquor, *Evaporated Organic Cane Sugar, *Organic Cocoa Butter, *Organic Vanilla), Roasted Peanuts (Peanuts, Peanut Oil), *Organic Cane Sugar, Colored With (Red Cabbage Juice, Beetroot Juice, Carrot Juice, Hibiscus Juice, Annatto Extract, Turmeric Extract), Tapioca Syrup, Sugar, Gum Acacia, Carnauba Wax, Vanilla Extract *Denotes Fair Trade.
Unreal Crispy Quinoa Gems: Alternative to Crispy M&M’s
Like their peanut gems, these quinoa gems are certified vegan, fair trade, and non-GMO. They offer the crispy finish of their M&M counterparts with less of the junk! Colored with beet juice, and sweetened with organic sugar (that is never processed with bone char), these gems are crispy and sweet!
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (Chocolate Liquor, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Vanilla), Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Quinoa Crisp, Rice Starch, Colored With (Beet Juice, Spirulina Extract), Organic Tapioca Syrup, Gum Acacia, Carnauba Wax, Tapioca Starch.
Cocomels Chocolate Covered Caramel Pieces
Not quite exactly like M&M’s since they don’t have a candy coated shell, these bite sized dark chocolate pieces cover coconut milk caramels, and make for a delicious bite sized treat! They’re certified organic, vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
Ingredients: Organic 60% dark chocolate (organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, soy lecithin (emulsifier), organic vanilla extract), organic coconut milk (organic coconut, water), organic brown rice syrup, organic cane sugar, sea salt, organic Madagascar vanilla extract (water, organic ethyl alcohol, organic vanilla bean extractives), xanthan gum.
Note: If you are not vegan, but vegetarian, another company with healthier candy alternatives is Little Secrets. They make peanut butter pieces that are vegetarian. They DO contain milk, so they are not vegan. But they are a healthier alternative using fair trade dark chocolate, no artificial flavors, no high fructose corn syrup, and no artificial colors.
While regular M&M’s are not vegan, and are questionably not vegetarian either, if you are a fan of this candy coated chocolate treat there are vegan friendly options available. While these treats should only be enjoyed on occasion, as they are still high in sugar, they are a healthier alternative for anyone looking to reduce their intake of processed ingredients. Made with natural food coloring from plants, organic sugar, and often fair trade chocolate, these alternatives will not disappoint. You can find many of these healthier alternatives at stores like Whole Foods or on Amazon.